My first childhood memory was hitting the post supporting the railing on the steps leading to the kitchen door in our backyard in Roseville.
He made a bloody mess of my face.
I was 4 years old at the time. Apparently, I had been confronted with things for a long time.
A neighbor, Catherine Gates, who was a teacher, mentioned to my parents that I might have a problem with my eyesight.
That ended up being an understatement for the ages.
The first optometrist I saw referred my parents to an ophthalmologist. I had two eyes which made Mr. Magoo’s eyesight 20-20 in comparison.
I hit the grand slam of eye problems – astigmatism, nearsightedness, hyperopia and lazy eye.
It surprised my parents as they thought I was just a klutz. By the time you reach your third child, you aren’t sweating as much as you used to. And given that it was in the early 1960s, parents weren’t wearing knee pads, helmets, etc. You were children on the loose before anyone coined such an absurd term.
You were expected to scratch your knees, knock over bikes, and hurt your ego. This is how you grew up learning to deal with adversity, challenges, setbacks, and to understand that certain behaviors can lead to bloody results.
The eye surgeon was Dr. George Pace.
He told my parents I had one of the toughest lazy eyes he had ever seen. But before resorting to possible surgery, he wanted to try correcting it with an eye patch to see if that would make the weaker eye that was the lazy eye step up his game.
I spent over a year with an eye patch while wearing my first pair of bifocals from the get-go.
It’s strange. Most of the other kids in kindergarten thought the eye patch, even with glasses, was cool. But a year later, in first grade, I became “four eyes”. Some kids who obviously thought they were smart and perceptive took this taunt as “four fat eyes” in reference to my weight.
I didn’t really dwell on such sarcastic remarks that sometimes came from people who thought that just being over 30 made them adults.
The reason was simple. I was happy that the world was no longer a perpetual blur.
In fact, I credit what happened after I hit the stair post that ran through the house as the reason I became a voracious reader by the time I was in first grade.
Our neighbor, who insisted that I call her Catherine when it was a no-no at the time for any child under 21 to address a neighborhood or a non-parent without Mr. , Mrs. or Miss in front of their last name, made her mission to make sure that I fully appreciated being able to see.
She taught me to read before I was 5 years old. For two years, I had daily lessons when she was not traveling in the summer and after she came home from school.
The “books” she used were the front pages of the three newspapers to which she subscribed – the Roseville Press-Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and Sacramento Union. It was never the sports section or the comics. It was always a first page. She also perceived me on what I had read once I understood what specific words meant.
Somewhere along the line I was able to master the art of speed reading a bit.
Over the years, my eyesight has improved to the point of being in my mid-thirties for several years. I finally went back to bifocals and then about 20 years ago I switched to trifocals.
With the exception of my first year or so as a patient with Dr. Pace, where I literally went to an eye appointment every month or so, I made annual visits for eye exams.
Along the way, a number of optometrists have gained my trust in them: Greg Miller, Fred Stellhorn, Michael Lavieri and now Tram Ton-Tran.
I was a little apprehensive about my exam with Ton-Tran. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had never been examined by her. Ton-Tran bought Lavieri’s practice when he retired and renamed it iCare Family Optometry.
It was the fact that I had misjudged things even with my glasses on.
I found myself doing what I did in group aerobics classes when I was sweating like I was serving as a spring at Niagara Falls which required me to take off the goggles so they wouldn’t fly off of my head. Even if I used a “sports bracelet” to hold them in place, the lenses would become streaked with sweat, making vision almost impossible.
What I did was concentrate like I didn’t know how to move my limbs automatically.
Part of that comes from being a natural left-hander who lost that habit as a first-grade teacher under the belief that anyone who was in their speed-reading group who didn’t pick up a pencil, pencil, or pencil. pair of scissors with their right hand would not live up to their learning potential. If she saw you committing such a transgression, her metal ruler ended up right up to your wrist. And if you really made her angry by repeating the perceived sin after the first hit, she would make sure you felt the next hit for the rest of the day.
But a lot of that was attributed to the fact that things were literally blurry.
Anyway, it was one of my longest eye exams. After detecting that I had a lazy eye problem again and the fact that patch therapy rarely works in an adult, especially one heading towards age 65, she worked diligently to make up a prescription that would force my lazy eye to stop slacking off at work.
After a week of wearing the new glasses, things are better. Although threading a needle is always a challenge – it has never been the case with me – and all hope of starting a second career as a diamond cutter has been ruled out, I have noticed that my eye lazy is a bit but less lazy.
This is a good sign considering that the lazy eye can end up tricking your brain to ignore it altogether, which I’m sure would make judging things in the eye-hand coordination department as fun as to butt a post.
Ask me what I think of the greatest achievements of mankind and I will tell you without hesitation that it is the scientific disciplines that made modern healthcare, including optometry, possible.
This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at [email protected]